Android N code hints at “freeform windows” mode like Remix OS

by: Kris CarlonMarch 15, 2016

samsung galaxy note 4 multitasking aa (11 of 12)

You know how Android repeatedly absorbs good ideas from third-party developers and OEMs into stock Android? Like floating notifications, the kill switch, lockscreen notifications, dark theme, split screen, granular app permissions and power saving modes? Well, it looks like one Android N feature we might be seeing in the near future will borrow an awful lot from Remix OS: freeform windows.

Evidence of the feature was uncovered in the Android N code by Ars Technica and it seems to indicate that Google has plans to step up its multi-window game by offering an “experimental freeform windows” mode in a future release.

<string name=”enable_freeform_support”>Enable freeform windows</string>
<string name=”enable_freeform_support_summary”>Enable support for experimental freeform windows.</string>


Ars hasn’t been able to get freeform multi-windows to work though and has spoken to an Android Development Advocate that assures them it doesn’t work in developer preview 1. Upon digging a little deeper, it was found that Google even mentions freeform multi-window in the Android N documentation:

Manufacturers of larger devices can choose to enable freeform mode, in which the user can freely resize each activity. If the manufacturer enables this feature, the device offers freeform mode in addition to split-screen mode.

What this will look like in practice sounds a lot like RemixOS, the Windows-like Android OS for desktops that allows you to, you guessed it, freely resize individual windows and drag them around the desktop, just like Windows.

We’re big fans of Remix OS here and are eagerly looking forward to where the team takes the idea. As much as it would be a shame to see Google absorb the concept into stock Android before RemixOS gets off the ground, it’s such a great feature we’d be equally happy to see it baked into stock Android as soon as possible.

Of course, the same kind of thing has already appeared elsewhere, in Samsung devices for example. You've been able to use multi-window mode on LG and Samsung devices for ages and resize individual app windows with OEM tweaks to Android or multitasking apps for a long time too.

So a freeform windows mode in Android N is no newer than Remix OS which is no newer than Samsung's resizable multi-windows which harks back to Windows itself. There's nothing new under the sun, but there might soon be in stock Android.

  • Luka Bulatović

    I was just about to comment that this was available in TouchWiz since God knows when, and then I saw you already mentioned it at the end… Nice thing to finally have in stock Android.

    • Dennis Fluttershy

      It’s nice that Samsung users have certain features they can use.
      However, if it isn’t part of stock Android, then not all apps will utilise it.
      So the inclusion of these features directly to Stock, will help Samsung get more apps supported.

  • Diego Opazo SV-Cross

    I was expecting this on the long term. I want to see where this will lead Android.

  • Matt Powell

    So what you’re saying is the next Nexus phone will be made by Samsung? Got it

  • Rohit Raja

    Continuum on Android….and with android on phone and PC having the same environment and apps, it makes complete sense. so Continuum you suck…..

  • Anon

    i dont get it. so google is allowed to copy stuff from oems and not get sued?

    • N&LH

      then brainwashed people say “all innovation is coming from Google”

    • Dennis Fluttershy

      Ideas aren’t copyrighted … and not all ideas are patented.
      Pretty sure Samsung doesn’t have a patent on multi-window or floating windows.
      …otherwise Microsoft would be in trouble.

  • Sairaj Mote

    Why it was called idea absorbation not idea stealing ???